From Bentley IMPACT - The Power of Ideas
The Changing World of Business
Professor Susan Adams, Program Manager for Bentley University Executive Education Women's Executive Leadership Program talks about employee development as a leader.
Support and direction nurture employee talent.
Wish your employer would treat you like a rock star? Chances are you're being treated more like a worker bee. And that's not good.
Instead of nurturing talents and giving employees the resources to “transfer more pollen” in the corporate landscape, many managers are sacrificing development in the name of efficiency. And like bees, they're producing less and less as a result.
I am not advocating that companies ignore technology and its attendant efficiencies. But managers should ask: What are the repercussions for treating millions of employees like they're just another piece of hardware . . . just another worker bee? Check labor statistics if you have any doubts: Wages for middle-class households rose about 6 percent over the last two decades, versus a 58 percent rise for top earners.
TIME magazine took recent note of the honeybees’ plight and confirmed they're in big trouble.
As they survive by feeding on a variety of flowers, bees pollinate our food sources. Certain types of nectar are necessary for their health and sticky substances from other plants strengthen their living environments. Humans, however, are altering nature so that the food and materials needed for survival are difficult to find or toxic. Agricultural farms are mono-cultural, with acres of the same crop. Fertilizers and pesticides used to increase production are harming and driving away bees.
Business organizations do much the same thing when they cut costs by focusing on efficiencies and eliminating what feeds and supports employees. People need time and space for human interaction at work to stimulate ideas that can benefit the company, to seek emotional support during stressful times, and to learn from each other. They also need to take home a sense of self-worth that comes from feeling valued.
Millennials expect a “work family” that considers both career and life, and guides them toward achieving their goals. Managers should offer praise but, more important, provide constructive feedback that leads to better performance. Millennials are used to receiving a lot of support and direction, and like the bees, they need visible pathways to sustain them. If they can’t see a path in your organization, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. Show that you care about an employee’s personal life by allowing for time to juggle both life and work, with regular check-ins about stress levels and what they might need.
This isn’t a one-way street. Millennials should avoid a narrow focus on only the “beautiful flowers.”
- Appreciate experience. Don’t dismiss the knowledge that more seasoned colleagues can provide or assume they will block your chances at career advancement.
- Embrace failure as a lesson. This helps develop resilience.
- Be observant. You’ll learn how experience creates wisdom.
- Appreciate the moment. Doing so projects optimism, makes others want to work with you, and helps you harvest lessons from daily experiences.
- Practice independence to develop the skills to guide the next generation.
Does the decline in satisfying employees’ human needs threaten our frail economy just as the bees’ decline threatens the natural world?
The good news is that individual employees may buck the trend by prevailing upon their bosses. My research at Bentley’s Center for Women and Business indicates that millennials, in search of authenticity, find job satisfaction (and resulting productivity) through their relationship to their immediate supervisor. And those managers often find ways to nurture employees, despite declines in resources and incentives.
For C-level executives, the message is simple. Want more flowers in your corporate garden? Make sure you keep investing in those worker bees.
Susan Adams is professor of management and senior director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University.
Leadership development involves curiosity and continuous learning. When was the last time when you attempted to learn something that was new to you? Perhaps it was a sport or a hobby, or perhaps it was a new discipline applicable to your work-life. It isn’t easy. When we have been in the world of business for any length of time, we tend to become expert in our area. Our focus may be to become the ‘go-to’ person for a certain type of information or service. We know things. We own the expertise, and it shapes a large piece of our career identity.
Switching gears can be a challenge. However, in today’s business environment, the pace of change is increasing exponentially. In the area of technology alone, we are all being challenged to take on new ways of doing business. Information comes our way at top speed with a continuous flow of ideas, articles, email and blogs. Most of it is good information, intriguing and worth a few moments of our time, but there is so much to take in. Recently I had an opportunity to spend a day at a leading edge marketing conference. I was surrounded by young, enthusiastic and experienced marketers who were all far more knowledgeable in the subject areas at hand. There were new ideas, terminology and platforms presented. It was foreign territory. The choice was clear – either learn something new or become quickly irrelevant.
Our organizations need managers and leaders who can adapt to new markets and to changes in existing markets, technologies and methods. Change and adaptation are difficult, requiring encouragement and patience. It may have been quite some time since most have been in a college classroom or graduate program in which the goal was to exchange ideas and learn new things. Our leaders want to remain relevant – to remain at the top of their game throughout their career. Mid-managers don’t want to lose ground to those now entering the workforce. At Bentley, we create environments for short-term learning that value the individual and provide leading-edge concepts for growth. Managers from different companies and industries meet for a few days to expand their knowledge-base.
Custom programs are designed and delivered for high potential leaders and delivered on-site or on our campus. There are opportunities for executive women's leadership, business acumen, emerging leaders and new supervisor development. If you are more ambitious, you could consider a specialty Masters degree in marketing analytics, business analytics, information technology or user experience Why not stretch a bit this fall? Join us for a ‘Mini-MBA’ professional program or one of our leadership programs. It’s back-to-school season and we look forward to meeting you!
"Why have a separate leadership development program for women?" We often hear this question and it is valid. Corporate women have made great strides in integrating into business culture. Many women are tired of being separated by category. Mixed gender executive training is an extremely effective mode for management development. However, we believe there are still reasons to offer an opportunity for senior level women to meet together over a span of time to learn about their personal leadership style and the ways in which they can become more effective as they move into executive roles within their organization.
There remains quite a bit of thought and discussion with regard to the progress of women in corporate organizations. This past weekend, the New York Times published an article that has created a lot of 'buzz' around gender and the business environment, in this case as a result of a study at the Harvard Business School. Many were surprised at the findings of the research which traced gender relationships among peers as they completed their MBA. Despite the best efforts of all involved, there still seemed to be barriers to full inclusion in this selective business setting. While corporations have put forth best efforts for many years and there have been great changes, it seems there is still work to be done.
At Bentley University, we offer an executive women's leadership program that has drawn mid-to-senior level directors, vice presidents and above. The leadership content is not gender specific - it is simply great leadership development material that would apply to all within the management structure. The difference is the discussion that takes place and the candor with which the participants share their challenges and shape their future growth objectives.
Here are what some of the women have said about the program:
"This experience allowed me to take a step back to get perspective about myself as an employee, a leader and as a woman in each of these roles."
"Great and insightful, very active and loved the group interactions."
"Absolutely incredible experience!"
"Very well executed. As I said, good mix of principles and discussion/drills."
"This program was stimulating, enlightening, fun, sometimes challenging and rewarding. I learned much more than I thought I would about what it means and what it takes to succeed in an organization."
Perhaps they would have had a similar response in a mixed gender program. Our feedback indicates that the peer network that the women develop and maintain provide a lasting value well beyond the completion of their time with us. The difference is connection. The connections formed and the professional relationships forged have been transformative in providing the supportive network outside of one's company for help and advice with the challenges of a current or future role.
At some point, perhaps a leadership program designed specifically for women will be a relic of business past. For now, it seems that there is still a need and that the results can be exceptional. Please share your thoughts below.
All have the potential to become effective leaders.
With the economic upswing, more businesses are investing in leadership development. They need to quickly develop new talent to succeed in growing their businesses, but leadership development is a process - not an event or program. It takes time. Recently, the Wall Street Journal posted an article entitled "Life in the Slow Lane: Some Bikers Savor Leisurely Rides in the Saddle"(WSJ 8/17-18, 2013). It was an entertaining fluff piece about those of us who may prefer softer bike seats and non-lycra riding garb versus those whose goal is to pedal as fast as possible on sleek and fashionable equipment with only the finest biking attire. The slower riders took more time to converse, to notice the scenery, to stop for coffee. The sleek riders focused on speed and reaching the finish line. The goal for all was to complete the journey in a manner matching their personality and skill set. This prompted thoughts about the career 'race' and the ways in which leaders evolve.
At Bentley Executive Education, we work to develop leadership and management skills with mid-to-senior managers and see a variety of management personalities at all career stages. All begin at the starting line - freshly minted degrees in hand with differing personalities and high aspirations . Some rise quickly to the top. They have the right skill sets and access to mentors and sponsors along the way who teach them which routes will facilitate a rapid rise. Others may be a bit slower, developing a broad array of skilled and technical disciplines and building many networks before beginning into a management role. All require support, education, meaningful stretch assignments and opportunities to expand beyond their comfort zone. All have the potential to become effective leaders, adding value to their companies where it really matters - with people. Without exception, participants in our programs express an eagerness to learn new things and a sense of refreshment when given the chance to step away for a few days with peers from other industries to discuss concepts, participate actively in exercises and simulations and develop action plans for their businesses. They enjoy the process from different perspectives and bring a variety of skills to the mix. Most of all, they express a deep sense of feeling valued by the organizations they represent.
We are preparing for a new academic year here at Bentley, and are gearing up to meet many fascinating managers and executives in our upcoming executive programs. Some will have taken the sleek fast ride so far while others are mid-way in their journey. We look forward to 'sharing the ride' with them. We welcome your thoughts on developing leaders. Why not join us?
How do managers develop executive leadership skills and presence?
As we begin a new academic year here on campus, I’ve been asked to define what our philosophy is in the area of leadership development. Over a long corporate career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in and select consultants for developing leadership and team building skills. It is never an easy equation, and there is a great deal of thought leadership around the topic. At Bentley University, we believe that ‘soft skills’ which are so critical to success involve a thoughtful approach and specific practical actions by an individual over the course of their education and career. Our goal is transformative thinking with an emphasis on the individual and on creating inclusive environments for curiosity, learning and growth.
Leaders require skill sets that are uniquely suited to moving groups toward organizational objectives in ways that are effective and produce results in a cost-efficient manner. Some people seem to have these skills naturally – they are outgoing, organized and resourceful. Others have amazing technical breadth and value, but have not had experience in managing groups or teams and can easily stumble in their initial attempts to let others perform the necessary projects.
In our executive leadership engagements, we work to create spaces in which trust can be developed quickly and ideas shared openly. Our faculty members have exposure to many types of companies and organizations and they are involved in and aware of the latest research and thought related to organizational behavior and leadership development. As facilitators, they excel at encouraging participation by all and forming relationships among group members.
Executives and managers who have participated in a Bentley program comment that they most appreciate:
The presentation of concepts and ideas by graduate school faculty members with many years of experience in academic, consulting and organizational settings who have a genuine interest in getting to know them and maintain contact beyond the program if requested
A focus on application of learned concepts in practice – not just theory
Participant groups that are supportive and involved with each other long after the leadership program ends
Active engagement by all participants and post-program follow-up
Continued connection with Bentley through forums and breakfasts, speaking opportunities on campus, finding and hiring great interns and graduates and a sense of community with our group
Leadership development is not a formula. It is, instead, a set of opportunities to learn and change over a period of time with the support of peers and others in the organization and in a professional network for the long term. This takes a little bit of time and commitment and a great deal of thought and willingness to change. We work with individuals and groups to insure that the successful implementation of new ideas practices will produce lasting results for individuals and organizations and that all will be refreshed to move forward.